There hasn’t been this intense of a battle in the state since “The Devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal!” The battle isn’t for a “golden fiddle,” it’s for new momentum in the Democratic party or validation that President Trump is on the right track and still has the heart of real Americans. There is a special election in the 6th District of Georgia to fill the position of Tom Price, Trump’s new Health and Human Services Secretary. This is a seat in the House that was once filled by Newt Gingrich and has been in Republican hands for decades.
The leading Democratic candidate is Jon Ossoff; he is battling 11 Republicans for the seat. If he could win the 50% threshold, it would look like a knock-out blow to the Republican movement in the country and a huge boost for the new Democrat push preparing for the 2018 elections. Ossoff has been given $8.3 million from January through March, mostly from people outside of Georgia, including Hollywood stars, who see the importance of this election nationally. It has enabled him to outspend his rivals vastly but, opened him up to criticism that he is being propped up by out of state interests.
It is unlikely that Ossoff, who is just 30 years old, will get to that 50% mark. That means that he will face the number one Republican candidate in a June runoff. That is the hope for the Republicans and what caused President Trump to set up phone calls to the Georgia constituency.
“This race is seen as a referendum on two things: One, on how well the Trump presidency is doing and if there are any Republicans upset enough to want to send a message. And two, a referendum on whether the Democratic Party can flip some districts,” said Richard Barke, a political science professor at Georgia Tech. “It looks like it’s in play, but the question will be all about who turns out.”
Democrats believe that the seat is ripe for the picking, even though the Republicans have held it tightly for decades. President Trump only won the district by less than two percentage points in November. Last week’s Kansas special election in which the Republican nominee won, but with a much narrower margin than expected, has made this Georgia election that much more unknown.
Jesse Ferguson, a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staffer, said, “The fact that a Democrat in a red district like this will make it into the runoff and likely be the leading vote-getter tells you about the intensity of the energy behind Democrats and progressives. The same thing that’s fueling 200 protests around the country on Saturday is fueling progressive energy around the Atlanta suburbs.”
Republicans hope to turn Democratic hope into disappointment with a less than majority vote in the special election, forcing the runoff in June. “The only number that Ossoff can hit tomorrow that would change my opinion of things is if he can hit 50 percent plus one. Even if he came out of the race with 48 percent of the vote, he still will lose [in the runoff],” said Georgia-based GOP strategist Seth Weathers.
While there is great diversity and even some “bad blood” on the right, Republicans are confident that it won’t carry into the runoff and hinder party unity. “The reality of that is: You have two months for people to get over it. Maybe some of the core people in the volunteer base won’t be able to come out, but besides that, I think everybody will [back the Republican],” Weathers said.
The eyes of the nation are on this race in the 6th District of Georgia. The winner won’t get a golden fiddle, but the prize may be even more important.
Credit: The Hill